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I've just got a new Laptop. I've installed all applications I need, for now. Are there any best practices or tips on how to keep my windows machine clean and running smoothly? Or do I have to re-install everything every 6 months?

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14 Answers 14

up vote 13 down vote accepted

Create a virtual machine and test new software on that before running it on your real machine. You can rollback changes and it keeps your main machine nice and clean.

These are all free to download:

Don't forget you'll need a second license for Windows for the virtual machine though.

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Remove unnecessary startup programs by using the msconfig command. This launches the System Configuration. Go to the 'Startup' tab. This helps to get rid of the overwhelming number of programs active in your system tray.

Periodically clean out your registry with a program like CCleaner.

Use filehippo to detect and download program upgrades.

Defrag your hard drive when needed.

Make sure to have virus protection, like avast and do not open suspicious email or messenger links.

If you do all of these things, your computer should run smoothly.

Finally, windows can leak memory more than linux and the occasional unscheduled reboot does not hurt.

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You might find Returnil a useful addition, too. Essentially it allows you to run everything isolated from your real OS, once you reboot, everything is returned to the original state.

Check the Products tab, there is a free version.

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CCleaner is a must. Also, if your laptop comes with a restore disc, restoring every 6-12 months is not a bad idea. Just make sure you keep your data on an external drive.

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Take a look at DeepFreeze, although it may be overkill for your situation. (I'm not a Windows user, but I'm considering it for shared Macs at a school. It certainly locks things down very tight. Perhaps too tightly for you, but it's configurable and worth a look.)

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Because the days of "Never touch a running system" are over (just too many patches nowadays), install Secunia PSI.
It tells you when a new update of one of your programs is available. Keeps your machine healthy.

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If you're really serious, give Microsoft's SteadyState a try. It will reset your computer each time you restart your computer. If you really need something to stick, then you can login as an admin.

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Steady State can lock things as heavily or as lightly as you want. It can also be run in differing varieties for differing accounts. One account can have limited access and a complete reset on logoff while another account is only limited to no access to one application or another. –  menns Dec 11 '09 at 16:14
    
Dead link, and it is not longer supported. RIP, Steady State –  Canadian Luke Jun 11 '12 at 21:10

Wipe it with a cloth :)
What do you mean "clean"? I have a lot of software installed and it work very fast still. Use recovery points to cleanly remove slow programs.

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  • Don't run as administrator unless necessary.
  • Install security updates as soon as possible.
  • Use a firewall.
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the only thing I'd add and its been mentioned just not a concisely as yours is, don't install stuff unless absolutely freakin neccessary! –  user33788 Jun 10 '10 at 14:43

Don't browsing on untrusted sites.

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Get Glary Utilities, it sorts out a lot of the mess. Also, if you know what you are doing, disable a lot of the system services that are enabled by default, this should in most cases (and depending on what you disable) ensure smooth sailing - for the most part.

Also, when you delete/remove software. Don't use the 'on the fly' Shift-Delete method, in most cases software will be installed via an installer, so uninstall the software using the provided uninstaller. This should keep your registry cleaner.

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Try ccleaner - it is a free download

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Try not to uninstall apps is my best advice, or at least think before installing. There's a lot of cruft added by apps you install (so much so there are dedicated tools to remove it). In fact it's worth installing tools such as Supercleaner to keep it running smoothly.

Try to install programs to one location where you possibly can (I used to have /PHP, /MySQL, /Python on my D: drive, but they've since gone to Program Files - sounds like nothing but it confused me since that's where I store actual files).

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Yeah, don't install crap on it unless 1) you trust the makers 2) you need it.

Also, RANU.

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what is RANU ?? –  Decio Lira Aug 12 '09 at 22:03
    
Run As Normal User. No admin for u. –  Will Aug 13 '09 at 11:40
    
+1 for "don't install it if you don't need it." –  afrazier Dec 23 '10 at 18:36

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